There is hardly a soul left in the world that doesn’t watch TV or movies. There’s something about these sit-coms and movies that leaves us craving for more. Movies often represent real life situations that are easily relatable to the audience. Which is why they play such an integral part in shaping our society. In the early days of development, storytellers had an important role in the cultural and social development of a society. Today, filmmakers have taken on this mantle of responsibility.
Although movies are not meant to be realistic, researchers theorize that exposure to a repetitive kind of media can shape expectations and perceptions, especially for young people. Extensive research on the topic dictates that whether we know it or not, we are affected by what we watch. On one hand there are those who will actively observe media portrayals for insights into their own life and behavior. Others will entirely deny the influence of media on their own lives, without realizing that what they have been seeing over a long period of time has shaped what they perceive as normal, thanks to repetitive images and themes.
Take romantic comedies as the best example of influence of media on the younger generation. Researchers analyzed the relationships in 40 popular romantic comedies over the course of 10 years. What they discovered is that the couples portrayed in these movies almost always mimicked the beginning stages of the relationship, the honeymoon period, and the later stage of grand gestures of love. They move quickly from one stage to the next with the peak of their love life being marriage after which the movie ends. Stephanie Coontz, author of “Marriage, a History” says, I think it’s absolutely true that the movies certainly overestimate the immediacy in which love develops.” While in reality, couples often take a lot more time to get to know each other and there is a distinct amount of time between infatuation and love. The sunshine and rainbows in the land of movies are often followed by thunderstorms. Romantic relationships in movies end quite dramatically in the heat of the fight. This shows that relationships portrayed in rom-coms are once highly desirable and all of sudden highly undesirable.
Every rom-com ends with a happy ending and this happy ending is usually marriage. Thus, marriage is shown as the peak of every relationship, and we all know what happens after you’ve peaked, it’s all downhill. Several movies go one step ahead in further defining marriage as the downside of relationships. In a movie featuring a couple dating and a married couple, those dating are caring, romantic, and affectionate, whereas their wedded counterparts are always nagging each other. The PDA and excitement between the lovers hogs up most of the screen time while any physical contact between the married couple is rare.
This sort of depiction of love in rom-coms leads to youngsters setting very high expectations from their relationships. Where in, if their partner has not made a grand gesture of love in over a week, it leads them to feel that their relationship is doomed or they have lost the spark. It also gives them the impression that fights and arguments are the abomination to a successful relationship. Youngsters are constantly seeking a high level of romance from their relationships and kisses in the park at all times. When this honeymoon phase is over and is not followed by declarations of love and marriage, they often do not know what to do. This leads to a generation that is riding on the high of a fresh romance and constantly seeking the next thrill when the flame dies out the first, only because they do not know better.
On the other hand, nobody wants a bad marriage, filled with bickering, but if one enters in to the whole thing with negativity filling their subconscious from what they’ve been watching, they are bound to imitate it. The representation of marriage leaves the younger generation feeling that marriage and romance are disparate entities, and all romance is over after the wedding. With such a negative portrayal of marriage, it is no wonder that the entire institution of marriage stands on rocky grounds today.
What moviemakers may or may not realize, is that the youngsters who spend half their life with their eyes glued to the screen are subconsciously taking notes of everything they see. As much as one may deny it, the repetitive themes in the movies play an important role in shaping what they perceive as normal.